Whitetail Hunting photo

This Valentine’s Day, I suggest you skip the fancy and expensive restaurant and instead cook a nice meal from your heart. Venison heart that is.

Though I don’t see it happening as much today, there used to be a time when deer hunters would carry a couple of gallon-size Ziploc bags with them into the woods. The deer’s liver would go in one, and into the other the hunter would slip the heart. Most interestingly, of all the times I’ve seen someone save a deer’s heart, the act has been so carefully conducted it felt almost reverential. So it’s only natural that serving such a sacred piece of the animal should be an act of love, hence my belief heart makes the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner.

There’s a deer heart destined to be the centerpiece of my dinner tomorrow night, though I haven’t quite finalized my plans for cooking it. I was leaning toward a take on Fergus Henderson’s Stuffed Lamb’s Hearts from his book The Whole Beast, but am now thinking about a spicy, skewered Peruvian kebab, if only because of the name–Anticuchos de Carazon.

Some of the ingredients for authentic anticuchos, such as aji amarillo (a type of Peruvian yellow pepper) and anchiote are a little hard to come by here in western Nebraska, so this recipe may be less than traditional, but no less tasty.*

Carazon de Venado


-3 Tbsp. canola oil
-1 anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
-1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or 1 tsp. ground cayenne)
-2 tsp. cumin
-2 tsp. black pepper

-½ cup red wine vinegar
-½ cup water

-1 venison heart, cut into 1-inch cubes and trimmed of all fat, sinew, arteries, and other nasty bits and rinsed it well.


1.) Combine the marinade ingredients in a small food processor and pulse to form a thin paste. Whisk the pepper paste into a bowl containing the vinegar and water until everything is well mixed.

2.) Transfer the marinade to a gallon-size plastic bag. Add the cubed deer heart to the bag and seal, pressing as much air out as possible. Marinate 4 to 8 hours, turning the bag at least once halfway through.

3.) Remove the cubed heart from the marinade and thread the pieces onto metal or bamboo skewers. Grill over a hot fire for 3 to 5 minutes, flipping once, until just cooked.

*My girlfriend, T. Rebel, is pretty carnivorous and generally open to trying whatever experiment I happen to be cooking up, though when I told her about this recipe she said, “It sounds like heartburn to me. Or maybe heartbreak.” It’s up to you to gauge how your significant other will view a Valentine’s Day dinner of deer’s heart. I am not responsible for the chilly consequences of serving it to someone less adventurous.